Apple's announcement that it plans to switch from IBM processors to those from Intel may be a bold move - but some complain the company isn't doing enough.

They want to see Apple make its operating system available on Intel machines from any maker, not just Apple, which is the current plan.

"Long term, Mac OS X should run on any Intel-based hardware," said David Bratt, manager of network systems for the Lee Moffitt Cancer Center. "This would be a good strategy to gain market share over Windows and drive the price down for Mac hardware."

Mike Maday, senior LAN Manager at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, says the organization's network includes plenty of Xserves. But he also says that Apple computers cost too much today to warrant putting them everywhere.

"I want to be able to run Mac OS X on Dell, HP and servers we already own and on newer PCs," Maday says. "We'll gladly buy the software from Apple, but not so gladly if we have to purchase their hardware along with it."

A Power Mac G5 operating at 1.8GHz starts at $1,500 compared with a Dell Dimension 3000 running at 2.8GHz for $450.

OS X for Macs only

Nevertheless, Apple seems firm on its plan.

"We will not allow running Mac OS X on anything other than an Apple Mac," said Phil Schiller, senior vice president at Apple. "That doesn't preclude someone from running (Windows) on a Mac. They probably will."

Apple says it has been developing Macs on both PowerPC and Intel in its labs for the past five years, and has tweaked its operating system so it will run on only Intel-based hardware from Apple. Macs using Intel processors are scheduled to start rolling off the assembly line by this time next year, Apple says.

The move is being made because Intel has "the strongest processor road map by far," said Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who says he's disappointed that IBM hasn't been able to deliver a low-power or 3-GHz G-5 PowerPC processor.

"As we look ahead, although we've got some great products now, we can envision some amazing products we want to build. And we don't know how we can build them with the future PowerPC road map," Jobs says.

Potential reward justifies risk

Analysts and users say the move is risky in the short term, but could pay off in the long run.

"It presumably puts Apple on a better and more reliable chip road map - especially for mobile devices," says Gordon Haff, senior analyst for Illuminata.

Making processors for Apple never amounted to more than 2 per cent of IBM's PowerPC business. At that level, observers say, IBM is justified in not succumbing to Apple's needs for faster, more energy-efficient processors. Intel, on the other hand, has been shipping low-power Centrino processors for laptops since 2003.

Making the transition from IBM to Intel won't be without its obstacles.

For example, independent software vendors will have to adapt applications written to run on PowerPC-based Macs to run on Intel chips.

Apple plans to include technology in its Intel-based computers called Rosetta, which is designed to let binary code created for PowerPC run on Intel's chips.

Tom Krazit and Nancy Weil, correspondents with the IDG News Service, contributed to this story.